How to object to planning applications

Ten steps to fighting the developers on your doorstep

1. If you’re lucky, your neighbours/developers will have consulted you before drawing up plans. Mostly you’ll hear about it via a letter from the council, a listing in the local paper or a planning notice on a nearby lamp post.

2. The letter or notice will specify a date by when you must lodge your objection, usually about 21 days later. It’s possible to get around this deadline but it’s more effective if you can meet it.

3. Don’t get emotional. Many of the documents and letters you send from now will be public. Stick to the facts: trading insults and blame won’t help your case and is a waste of time and energy.

4. Check out the plans. They’ll be posted on the planning section of the local council’s website and may be available to view in the Town Hall. Identify which parts of the new building(s) will impact you and why. Hating the general idea of the development is not sufficient reason to get it rejected.

5. Confirm your complaints are actually grounds for objection. Bizarrely, your property’s loss of value is not. But overshadowing, loss of light (or privacy), adequate parking, road safety, use of amenities (personal or public) and character of the surrounding area will be taken into account. These ‘material considerations’ might be listed on the back of the notification letter.

6. All that remains is to list the valid reasons for objection and submit them by post and/or online. Your case will be stronger if you can quote from local planning policies which support your argument ie the local policy is not to build high-rise in country lanes which is a good reason to reject plans for the skyscraper next door.

7. Finding and trawling through policy isn’t impossible. It’s mostly online BUT central government has demanded councils reformulate planning with an eye to meeting the huge demand for new housing. Be careful: old policies may not have been carried into a new overall strategy, which in itself could not yet be adopted. You could check out the National Planning Policy Framework too, although this appears skewed in favour of more concrete...

8. Drafting in other objectors will help. Other neighbours are great but local councillors, charities, schools, pro-nature and residential associations all carry a considerable weight. Quote them in your objection letter.

9. You’re not out of the woods yet. If denied, the neighbours can apply again with revised plans. Even if they are refused a second time, they can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate (called PINS or ‘Bristol’ due to where it is based). This is the highest planning authority which can and will overturn previous decisions, even in the face of strong local opposition. Some appeals are public: you should attend and have your say. If possible, this is the time to get legal advice.

10. Planning decisions can only be contested by the applicant. As an objector you must accept the decision UNLESS you can prove it was made unlawfully, normally by finding a technicality. This is difficult, requires expensive legal advice and is very much a last resort.

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Last updated 7 August 2017.